Sabres Drop Second Straight
Tuesday, 12.19.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Buffalo came roaring out of the starting blocks as Ales Kotalik scored just 34 seconds into the game, but a pair of quick goals by Montreal on the power play halted their momentum. Buffalo dropped to 24-7-2 on the season as the team couldn't regroup, losing 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in HSBC Arena on Tuesday night.
The loss brings Montreal within five points of the Sabres in the Northeast Division standings.
"Trying not to lose two in a row is an extremely tough task," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "We need to hunker down now and know that we aren't getting a lot of breaks and we have to work for our opportunities."
Overmatched on special teams, the Sabres couldn't find a way to break Montreal's penalty kill in their four opportunities. In the past 11 games, Buffalo has recorded just five goals on 60 man advantages. On the other side of the ice, the Canadiens converted two-of-four opportunities on the power play, including their first two goals of the game.
The losing streak is the first the Sabres have experienced all season long. As the team departs for a two-game road trip in Nashville and St. Louis, Buffalo will be faced with the difficult task of turning around their luck away from home. The Sabres' 14-3-0 road record is best in the NHL.
"You suffer and there is agony when you lose," said Ruff. "The first thing you want to do is walk around and blame everybody for the different mistakes, when those same mistakes you would overlook in games you win.
"You're going to agonize over some of the plays. You're going to watch it again and look at all the real good plays we made and didn't take advantage of. It's going to be really interesting to see how we react."
Breaking out of a 13-game goal drought, Kotalik played his best game in over a month, registering not only the Sabres first goal, but creating the second with hard work in his own zone. He finished the game with two points and a plus-one rating. Linemate Paul Gaustad was the only other Sabres player to boast a positive plus/minus rating in the contest.
"That line [Kotalik, Gaustad, and Chris Drury] gave us a good night," said Ruff. "Al had two or three good opportunities and took advantage of the one right off the bat. It looks like that line could work for us."
A slow start to the season couldn't curb Alex Kovalev's point production when facing the Sabres.
Kovalev scored his 23rd career goal against Buffalo on the power play to tie the game 1-1. Kovalev fired Andrei Markov's rebound through a crowd from the right wing to record his ninth goal of the season and fourth with the man advantage at the 13:01 mark of the first.
Coming into the game, Kovalev had scored 22 goals and 16 assists for 38 points in just 57 games.
"I could have been a little sharper," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who stopped 24-of-29 shots. "I could have had a little bit more awareness on a few more plays."
Montreal's power play torched Buffalo for a second time with four minutes remaining in the opening period to take the 2-1 lead.
Stationed at the left post, Chris Higgins redirected Sergei Samsonov's pass from the point past Miller from a tough angle for his ninth goal of the season and fourth with the man advantage at 16:12.
Maxim Lapierre slipped Guillaume Latendresse's rebound past Buffalo's downed netminder for his third of the season at 17:33 to increase the Montreal lead to a pair heading into the first intermission.
"The three quick goals stung us," said Ruff. "It took us a while to recover."
With a hard check along the boards, Kotalik forced Michael Komisarek to turnover the puck along the boards and then found Jaroslav Spacek cutting to the net. Spacek's wristshot produced his fifth goal of the season and made the score 3-2 in favor of Montreal at 12:06 of the second.
A pair of Montreal goals in the third period led to a three-goal Buffalo loss.
Francis Bouillon's shot from the point is redirected by Tomas Plekanec at 7:52 to make the score 4-2, while Chris Higgins fires from the slot into a wide-open net for his second of the night after a give-and-go with Michael Ryder at 11:37.
"We've had some challenges lately, that's for sure," said Miller. "For the most part, we just need to regroup, go on the road and finish out the stretch before Christmas on a high note."
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